Why leaders need to stop thinking of employees as assets and start working on a more holistic approach to development
"Employees are your greatest asset." That phrase ranks right up there with low-hanging fruit and thinking outside the box in the pantheon of today's business leader mantras.
But what if that somewhat played-out snippet of corporate speak was off to begin with? After all, does anyone really think employees want to be considered an asset? Instead of trying to commoditize people, leaders are better off trying to help employees become their best selves.
That's what makes a Whole-Human Development approach such a powerful yet underutilized arrow in the corporate quiver. With the right framework as a guide, more fulfilled humans naturally become the motivated, innovative, and productive employees of which every C-suite leader dreams.
What is Whole-Human Development?
According to Gallup, 64% of employees are either not engaged or actively disengaged from their work, co-workers, and employer. With the average person spending one-third of their waking hours at work, there may be significant misalignment between an employee's work and personal lives.
But there shouldn't be such a distinction between these two lives to begin with. A whole-human approach to management and development is a more holistic, integrative strategy that knocks down the traditional barriers between work and home.
By focusing on factors that benefit the entire person--emotional, physical, spiritual, social, psychological, and professional--instead of those specific only to work life, companies develop people that thrive in all environments. Even better, there are a handful of best practices that can allow organizations to quickly reap the benefits of a Whole-Human approach.
Stipends provide flexibility
Discounted gym memberships and in-house wellness programs are all well and good, but they're also confining. If you give an employee a free gym pass, but what they really want is to practice Bikram Yoga at a studio, the membership won't provide them much benefit.
Instead of using specific programs for an entire workforce, a monthly stipend allows employees to choose their own path to wellness. They may choose yoga, rock climbing, art classes, guitar lessons, or whatever helps makes them feel whole.
Don't discount emotional health
Too many companies pretend there's an emotional moat around the office, trying to disconnect the issues in an employee's personal life from their work. But no such barriers exist in reality, so a person is bound to carry thoughts and emotions from the outside--both good and bad--into the work environment.
Counseling services, support groups, and plain ol' fashioned camaraderie all provide a significant benefit to someone that's dealing with something like divorce, loss of a loved one, or just an especially rough stretch in life. Establishing a plan for such inevitabilities not only helps the employee but also minimizes disruption to workflow and operations.
Mentor for the bigger picture
Finally, while there's certainly something to be said for the traditional 360 review for everyday performance, it should never supersede the bigger picture. Employees, particularly younger ones, have career ambitions that rise well-above their day-to-day responsibilities. Pairing them early-on with a mentor that can help direct them toward those ambitions is the personification of a win-win.
From an employee's perspective, a company that provides career path guidance--even if that path doesn't necessarily include their organization--stands out from other companies. This macro, global view also helps an employer spot misalignment between the business and individual, informs training and development, and drives professional fulfillment.
Collectively, this multi-faceted and holistic approach, one that focuses on the many aspects of the whole human, benefits employees, and employers alike. Sure, whole-human development is a different take on people management, at least compared to age-old, well-worn strategies. But it's time for leaders to embrace the same innovative spirit with their people as they have in nearly every other aspect of operations.